Recently someone told me that Alexa was spyware. I asked them why they said this and they responded that this is what they heard from a friend. I directed them to the Alexa toolbar and they got a better idea how the service works. They said, oh, this is just like the Google Toolbar.
Alexa seems to be the best way to find out how much traffic a site gets without having to pay for the data. Google offers something similar but much less detailed in its PageRank number that is displayed on its toolbar. This is a rank between 1 and 10 and the bigger the number, the better. The New York Times ranks 10, CNN ranks 9 and the Wall Street Journal ranks 7. This number is the importance Google places on your site using its proprietary and ultra-confidential algorithms.
Using Google and Alexa seem to be an accurate measure of site popularity in many cases.
There are many times when someone will tell me they have an amazing site or amazing company and their Alexa ranking is nonexistent. Another important measure is Alexa rank in comparison to their competition. It is exponentially more difficult to get to the first spot on Alexa meaning that it is easier to be the 50,000th site on Alexa compared to 40,000, etc.
As a reference here are the ranks of some communications companies:
Alexa Rank (Lower is better)
Alexa measures page views per user and unique visitors and multiplies these numbers to generate a rank. So if you have 1,000 unique people visiting your site and each person looks at 3 pages, this is better than 1,000 people looking at 2 pages. The lower the Alexa rank the better as you are closest to the most visited site on the web.
As a point of reference, here are the top rated English sites this morning according to Alexa:
We have noticed that TMCnet’s ranking roughly correlates to our internal traffic numbers.
As Alexa is comparative in nature we can't accurately predict how Alexa will rank our site on a daily basis. We can guess within a fairly narrow range however.
One thing that is amazing is that the page views Alexa tells us we have per user is very close to what we have seen from our internal logs.
I am anxious to find other ways to measure popularity on the web so if you know of any sites that are similar to Alexa, please post your comments below.